Madison Dragons Soccer Club
The independent amateurs from Eastern Idaho, formed in 2002 by Peter Stilling, are now run and coached by Tikal Johnson. Playing their soccer outside of the normal lower league set-up, these players get their soccer fix by playing a season of matches against collegiate squads from within Idaho and surrounding states – and occasionally against club competition from leagues as well. We were really curious about their set-up, what makes them tick, and how it all got started—Tikal Johnson was happy to spell it all out for us.
What's your origin story? When and why did you start Madison Dragons SC? Why Dragons?
I grew up in Lehi, Utah where I started playing soccer at age 8. I played for Utah Arsenal S.C. and then went on to play for Lehi High School but I figured my "playing career" was going to be over after that. After high school, I went to college at BYU-Idaho where I started playing intramural soccer. After one semester, I took a two-year break from college to serve a mission in Spain. In 2016, when I came back to Idaho, I was told about a club soccer team, Madison Dragons S.C., by a former intramural teammate which I went and tried out for. After one year as a player, our coach/manager stepped down due to a career change and asked if I could take charge of the team. I started trying to balance playing, coaching, and managing in the Spring of 2017 and ended up tearing my ACL that summer, which led to focusing solely on coaching and managing.
I took over the team in 2017 but the team originally was formed in 2002 when the junior college in Rexburg, ID (Ricks College) was turned into a 4-year university and discontinued its collegiate sports programs. The members of the Ricks College soccer team wanted to continue playing so they put together a club team that would play against other university club teams. The team was managed and coached by Peter Stilling who had coached the Ricks College team. After playing a handful of games the players gathered together before kickoff and one player put his hand in and jokingly suggested they cheer for "Pete's Dragons." The name stuck and the county of Madison was added to the name to create Madison Dragons Soccer Club.
According to the schedule on your website, you seem to only play college teams? And you don't seem to have any "home" matches--what's the soccer scene like in Idaho? Are there other non-MLS clubs within a reasonable distance? Have you played in any leagues before? Any Cup competitions?
We are part of the West Coast Soccer Association, and are made up of BYU-Idaho students so we mainly play against college club teams hence our schedule being mainly against other universities. However, we do play against UPSL teams Idaho Falls FC and Boise Cutthroats FC during our Spring/Summer season. We typically don't have any home games from November to April due to snow which is why we haven't had any listed home games in a little bit. We typically have around 10 home games throughout the year for the men's team and around 4 home games throughout the year for the women's team. The majority of those home games come in the Fall when we have our league season or in the spring before the semester has ended and all of our players have gone home for the summer. Currently we have not participated in any cups or tournaments due to travel costs but we are always evaluating our options to try to have more opportunities to play.
The soccer scene in Idaho is small but definitely growing, in the last 3 years the UPSL has expanded to Idaho by adding teams in Boise, Twin Falls, and Idaho Falls. The closest team to us is now Idaho Falls FC (about 25 miles South of us), but prior to that the closest opponents we had were in Utah. Beyond adult amateur leagues, youth soccer is growing rapidly with more teams being added each year.
Some clubs exist solely for the development of players, some are formed to extend soccer careers, but invariably fans find a club, no matter how small. What's your fan situation like?
We definitely fall under the extending soccer careers category but our fans come from the community and the university. For the last 17 years we have just played in a local park so anyone who wants to come watch can but I'd love to be able to get into a stadium so that we can create a full fan experience.
One of the hardest parts of running a club is keeping it running; for the benefit of other clubs who might be wondering, how do you find sponsors? Where do you look for the best deal on soccer kits? What advice would you give to fund a brand-new soccer team?
Sponsorships have come for us through business owners that my players have known in the area and business owners I have reached out to. Although we have a couple different sponsors, the majority of our funding is covered by player fees. For the best deal on kits, I've worked through Soccer.com but this year we are looking to try and switch to Icarus FC. We loved their designs and the price point! Advice for funding a brand-new team... I would say to tap into the community first. Reach out to local businesses and offer low cost sponsorship methods. It is definitely easier to get a lot of small sponsorships than to try and land one big one.
You have a men's team and a women's side too, are you affiliated with any youth clubs? Do your men and women players spend any time coaching?
Initially when the club started there was a men's side and a women's side, but the women's side folded after a season or two. At the beginning of last year, a handful of BYU-I students approached me about starting up a women's team. A player from the men's team and a friend of mine, Jacob Fagersten, volunteered to coach and together we started up the women's program. Currently we aren't affiliated with any youth teams, but we have provided several youth teams with prep scrimmages before state cup during our offseason. In the future we would like to start up an academy and run a summer camp which would provide some opportunities for players to coach, but currently we don't have anything set up yet. Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit more about my club!
- Joshua Duder